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Ballroom back to its old glory

| Saturday, May 11, 2013, 7:51 p.m.
California University of Pennsylvania athletic training students Jarred Binner (left) and Kyle McCarney rip the tile off the floor at the Youghiogheny Ballroom in West Newton.
West Newton Mayor Mary E. Popovich cleans the kitchen grill area at the Youghiogheny Ballroom.
The West Newton Volunteer Fire Department crew removes wallpaper on the back side of Youghiogheny Ballroom.

About 25 California University of Pennsylvania students spent hours painting, scrubbing and tiling a firehouse ballroom in West Newton helping to restore the room to its original glory.

West Newton Mayor Mary Popovich, a California University assistant professor, recruited students to spruce up the Youghiogheny Ballroom, a part of the West Newton Volunteer Fire Department.

“I could not have done this project without the help of California University,” Popovich said.

Alyssa Hoffee, a sophomore majoring in athletic training, spent about seven days volunteering.

“It was definitely worth it,” she said. “Mary (Popovich) was my EMT instructor ... and she put a ton of time into helping us. I feel it was a good way to kind of repay her as a student to show up and help.”

Hoffee of Churchill cleaned bathrooms and painted the room.

“It was a huge project,” she said. “(The ballroom) changed a ton. It looks fabulous now. Before, it wasn't updated.”

Involving California University students in the project made sense, Popovich said, because of the university's “civic engagement” program that encourages student participation in community projects.

Popovich said she mentioned to students her concern about the ballroom, which was getting to a “point of disrepair.” If the room didn't undergo work, it wouldn't attract renters, she said.

The 20-year-old ballroom can accommodate 500 people and is often used for weddings, gun shows and meetings.

“Now it's clean and ready to rock and roll for weddings,” Popovich said. “I'm hoping if anybody needs a space to have a large (event), they'll call the fire department.”

Students from the university's technology education department, an honor society, the athletic training society, the women's rugby team and two sororities signed up to help along with community volunteers.

Brooke Yingling, an athletic training major who plays rugby at the university, enlisted a few members of the team to help clean and paint.

“We did heavy duty cleaning of the kitchen area as well,” said Yingling of Hanover. “For the time that we were there, it felt like we got a lot accomplished at the end.”

The work was “brutal,” Popovich said.

“We were on our hands and knees with a scraper tearing up the tile on the floor so they can lay more tile,” university senior Jarred Binner said. “We also power-washed some of the kitchen appliances such as the grates for the stove.”

Student Matt Renshaw, part of the school's Tech Education Association of California, scoured the kitchen, replaced cracked tiles and painted.

“We got a lot of stuff done, and it looked really, really good when it was done,” said Renshaw, of Moon Township. “I hope it's going to be used a lot more now.”

Many local companies donated supplies, Popovich said.

Work remains, she said, such as replacing or painting ceiling tiles, cleaning the kitchen exhaust fan, repairing gutters and replacing awnings.

“I feel like I've done good for the community,” Binner said about the project. “And it's been helping out my professor. ... Anything we can do to help her, we do. Because she does so much for us.”

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or

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